The Nuba Mountains, a disputed region in central Sudan, was given a special status the so-called Popular People’s Consultation under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in Kenya in 2005 between Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan. According to the CPA, the Nuba Mountains has been ruled by joint force of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), representing the South, and the National Congress Party (NCP), representing the North. Since the CPA was signed, the United Nations International Mission in Sudan (UNIMIS) has managed to maintain peace between the two sides, but with the prospect of Southern Sudan becoming its own country on July 9th, the situation has changed.
The NCP government, ruled by Omar Al Bashir, promised to recognize the independence of the South. However, as the secession date approaches, things have gotten out of control and tensions are running high, particularly after the Government of Northern Sudan took control of the Abyei area, another disputed border region, in clear violation of the peace accord. The international community has asked that the government of Sudan withdraw its forces from Abyei, but they have so far refused to do so.
Following this same tactic, the government of Northern Sudan is now attacking the populated areas of the Nuba Mountains from the air in an attempt to disarm the SPLA forces in the region before the independence of Southern Sudan. President Al Bashir said that he intends to cleanse the region of Nuba SPLA supporters, mountain-by-mountain, home-by-home. According to an account from one of my relatives in the area, government security personnel have been going door-to-door, arresting and killing opponents. In the last few weeks, the conflict has led to an exodus of Nuba people fleeing their homes, and some have already taken refuge in mountain caves. Most are internally displaced, but nowhere in the North is safe, because Nubians are targeted as potential SPLA supporters. As of now, the North and the South are at a critical juncture with a possibility of a full-scale war breaking out.
In fact, if the international community does not act quickly to protect civilians attacked and displaced, the Nuba Mountains could quickly become the next Darfur. In the past few days, reports indicate that government forces have indiscriminately targeted women and children and paid militias. This is not the first time that the Nuba people have found themselves caught between Northern and Southern forces. The first genocide in the Nuba Mountains took place between 1985-1995, leading to mass displacement and death.
Immediate action must be taken to head off a major humanitarian disaster. First, I urge the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to provide UNIMIS forces in the region with a clear mandate to protect civilians. Second, the UNSC should use article seven of the UN charter to protect civilians in the region. Charter VII provides the Security Council with powers to do whatever it takes to maintain peace and protect civilians against any aggression. Moreover, the United States government should intervene through brokering a ceasefire agreement and bringing an end to hostilities between the fighting parties. Additionally, international organizations and other NGOs should provide humanitarian assistance to families most affected by the conflict, particularly women and children. I urge my fellow American citizens to take to the streets in protest of these gross human rights violations and urge President Obama to keep his promise to protect civilians in Sudan. The United Nations must take a strong stand to protect lives and prevent another genocide in this region, which is very vital in the North-South CPA accord. A decisive move by the international community, particularly by the African Union, United States Government, and European Union can mitigate this conflict before it escalates. If nothing is done, the outcome will be catastrophic and will be yet another stain on the world’s conscience.